Liz B. let us know about Slim Jim’s Spice Loss ad campaign, which features a number of commercials about men suffering from the horrible condition of spice loss, also known as emasculation. As Liz explains, “Apparently you need processed meat to stimulate your ‘man gland’, and give you ‘brolectrolytes’ for your ‘menergy’.” The ads feature themes that are common when marketing to men — a very circumscribed version of acceptable masculinity and the idea that women, and feminized things, are threats to masculinity.

Things that endanger men’s lives or just generally sap their will to live, according to the ads:

  • Shakespeare
  • Bird-shaped boats
  • Ironing
  • Making adjustments to their lifestyles to accommodate family life
  • Yoga
  • Salad
  • Spending time with women.
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It’s fascinating, really: femininity is depicted as weakness, the sapping of strength, yet masculinity is so fragile that apparently even the slightest brush with the feminine destroys it. This entire ad campaign — and the discourse about masculinity it draws from — is just an adult version of the game of cooties, with men fleeing the symbolic pollution of femininity.

Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.